Trump feared Iran would try to assassinate him to avenge Soleimani killing, new book says

·Senior Writer
·6-min read

Former President Donald Trump often bragged about how he authorized the killing of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, in a U.S. drone strike in January 2020.

“We stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold,” Trump said at a rally in Toledo, Ohio, that month. “He was a bad guy. He was a bloodthirsty terrorist, and he’s no longer a terrorist. He’s dead.”

But in private, Trump feared that Iran would try to assassinate him to avenge Soleimani’s death, according to “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” a forthcoming book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser about the former president’s tumultuous term in office.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 3. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 3. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Baker is the chief White House correspondent for the New York Times and Glasser is a staff writer for the New Yorker. Excerpts from the book were published by various media outlets on Wednesday night.

At a cocktail party in Florida in December 2020, Trump told his friends he was afraid Tehran would attempt to assassinate him — and that “he had to go back to Washington, where he would be safer,” the authors write, according to an excerpt published by the Guardian.

That is just one of numerous revelations from the book, which will be released on Tuesday.

Here are some of the others.

Trump’s billionaire friend convinced him that the U.S. could buy Greenland

A family of polar bears is seen crossing a glacier in Greenland in 2016. (NASA/Handout via Reuters)
A family of polar bears is seen crossing a glacier in Greenland in 2016. (NASA/Handout via Reuters)

In 2019, when Trump publicly floated the far-fetched idea of the United States buying Greenland from Denmark, many assumed it was just “Trump being Trump,” the authors write, according to an excerpt published by the New York Times.

But Trump had been seriously discussing it with his top aides. According to the book, the idea was first suggested to him by Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune, who discussed it with Trump in the early days of the presidency and “offered himself as a back channel to the Danish government to negotiate.”

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, and his aide, Fiona Hill, assembled “a small team to brainstorm ideas” and even “engaged in secret talks with Denmark’s ambassador.” When they informed Trump that “an increased American presence in Greenland made sense but that an outright purchase was not feasible,” the president “kept pushing,” suggesting that the administration use federal money from Puerto Rico to buy Greenland.

“On another occasion, he suggested outright trading Puerto Rico for Greenland,” the authors write.

Trump says he won’t pick Pence as his running mate again

Vice President Mike Pence listens grimly as President Donald Trump floats an idea at the microphone.
Vice President Mike Pence looks on as President Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on May 24, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In an interview with the authors for the book, Trump said he will not pick former Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate if he decides to run for president again.

“It would be totally inappropriate,” Trump told them.

By refusing to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, Trump said, “Mike committed political suicide.”

Pence, whose memoir recounting his experience in the Trump White House is due out later this year, is thought to be eyeing his own presidential bid.

“President Trump is wrong,” Pence said in a speech to the conservative Federalist Society in Florida earlier this year. “I had no right to overturn the election.”

Trump said he wouldn’t pick Haley, either — because of her looks

Nikki Haley looks quizzical as President Donald Trump leans in toward her.
President Trump speaks with Nikki Haley in the Oval Office after accepting her resignation, on Oct. 9, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

During his reelection campaign, there was speculation that Trump might replace Pence with Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on the Republican ticket.

But according to the book, Trump told people he would not pick Haley as a running mate because she had a “complexion problem.”

Trump was harshly critical of other prominent women for their looks, telling visitors that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was “an example of why women should be careful about plastic surgery.”

A top U.S. intelligence official wondered what Putin has on Trump

President Trump clasps the hand of an acquiescent President Vladimir Putin with his right hand, while reaching out to pat Putin's arm with his free hand at the same time.
President Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin after their joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. (Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivisto via Reuters)

Trump’s infamous 2018 joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland — during which he sided with Putin over the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election — left the top U.S. intelligence official wondering what Trump was thinking.

“I never could come to a conclusion,” Dan Coats, Trump’s then-director of national intelligence, told people afterward, according to an excerpt from the book published by CNN. “It raised the question in everybody’s mind: What does Putin have on him that causes him to do something that undermines his credibility?”

John Kelly ‘secretly’ bought a copy of a book questioning Trump’s mental health

Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s second chief of staff, “secretly bought” a copy of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” a bestselling 2017 book by a group of psychiatrists questioning the 45th president’s mental health.

Kelly “told others that the book was a helpful guide to a president he came to consider a pathological liar, whose inflated ego was in fact the sign of a deeply insecure person,” according to Baker and Glasser.

In a previously published excerpt of their book, Trump once asked Kelly why his generals couldn’t be more like Adolf Hitler’s, who were, in Trump’s view, “totally loyal.”

President Donald Trump, seated at his desk, looks bullish as his White House chief of staff, John Kelly, standing, leans in to make a point.
President Donald Trump speaks to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in the Oval Office, on Oct. 10, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“You f***ing generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?” Trump asked Kelly, according to the book.

“Which generals?” Kelly asked.

“The German generals in World War II,” Trump responded.

“You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off?” Kelly said.

But Trump was apparently unaware of that part of Nazi history.

“No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,” Trump replied.

According to a new excerpt dealing with the passing of the longtime Republican senator from Arizona, a presidential candidate and former U.S. Navy officer who was captured by the North Vietnamese and imprisoned during the Vietnam War, Kelly “grew so disaffected from Trump that he snapped at him when the president refused to lower the flag after Sen. John McCain’s death.”

“If you don’t support John McCain’s funeral, when you die, the public will come to your grave and piss on it,” Kelly told Trump at the time, according to the book.

(Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Penguin Press)
(Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Penguin Press)